Building Entertainment: The Animated Films of the Walt Disney Studio. Wreck-it-Ralph

Welcome to my weekly discussion of the animated films of the Walt Disney Studio. I’m proceeding mostly chronologically. The title comes from a quote from Walt, “I never called my work an ‘art’ It’s part of show business, the business of building entertainment.”

Title: Wreck-it-Ralph

Year: 2012

Source materials : Original concept, but features cameos from several characters in other video games

Budget: $165 million

Box office: $471.2 million

Plot: When Litwak’s Family Fun Center & Arcade closes at night, the various video game characters leave their normal in-game roles and socialize in a power strip. Wreck-It Ralph, the antagonist of the game Fix-It Felix Jr., is ostracized by its other characters for just doing his job, while the titular hero Felix is praised and rewarded medals for protecting the inhabitants from Ralph.

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Tired of being mistreated, Ralph announces at the game’s thirtieth anniversary party that he will earn his neighbors’ respect by winning a medal. Ralph learns he can obtain a medal from the first-person shooter, Hero’s Duty. After disrupting a game session, Ralph scales the game’s central beacon and obtains a medal, only to hatch a Cy-Bug, one of the game’s monsters, which can adapt to other environments and incorporate the artifacts that it devours from those places into its body.

Ralph and the Cy-Bug stumble into an escape pod, which is launched out of the game, and crash land in Sugar Rush, a candy-themed kart racing game. With Ralph missing, his game is labelled as malfunctioning and faces being unplugged. Felix, upon learning from Q*bert that Ralph has left his game, ventures to Hero’s Duty and allies with the game’s heroine, Sergeant Calhoun, to retrieve Ralph and the Cy-Bug.

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A little girl, Vanellope von Schweetz, steals Ralph’s medal to buy her way into the nightly race to determine which characters players can choose as their avatar. King Candy, the ruler of Sugar Rush, forbids her from racing because she has glitches that cause her to teleport erratically. Ralph and Vanellope agree to work together to retrieve his medal and help her win a race. They build a kart and hide out at Diet Cola Mountain, an unfinished race track, where Ralph teaches her to drive.

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King Candy hacks the game’s code to obtain Ralph’s medal, and offers it to Ralph in exchange for preventing Vanellope from racing. He claims that if Vanellope wins and becomes playable, her glitches will be brought to the attention of players and Sugar Rush will be unplugged; the glitch Vanellope cannot leave her game, and she will be left to die while King Candy and his subjects become homeless in the arcade. Ralph reluctantly agrees and destroys Vanellope’s kart. Heartbroken, she declares he ‘’really is a bad guy’’ and runs off distraught.

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Upon returning to his game, which has been evacuated in anticipation of it being unplugged the next morning, he notices Vanellope’s image on the side of the Sugar Rush cabinet and realizes she was meant to be a playable character.

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Meanwhile, Felix and Calhoun search Sugar Rush for Ralph. Felix falls in love with Calhoun, but she abandons him when he inadvertently reminds her of her late fiancé. Felix is later imprisoned in King Candy’s castle, but Ralph frees him and Vanellope, and Felix fixes the kart. Calhoun discovers a swarm of Cy-Bug eggs underground, which hatch and start devouring the game.

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Vanellope participates in the race, but is attacked by King Candy. Vanellope’s glitch reveals he is actually Turbo, a notorious auto-racer who attempted to take over RoadBlasters, a more popular racing game, sabotaging them and resulting in both being unplugged, whose name is used as an idiom to describe characters who try to join another game. He took over Sugar Rush, displacing Vanellope as the main character.

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Ralph, Felix, and Calhoun evacuate the game, but Vanellope is trapped due to her glitches. When Calhoun points out that the Cy-Bugs can be attracted and destroyed by a beacon of light as in Hero’s Duty, Ralph decides to make Diet Cola Mountain erupt, replicating the beacon. During his attempts Ralph is confronted by Turbo, now fused with the Cy-Bug that devoured him. Ralph makes the mountain erupt and falls into its depths to sacrifice himself, but Vanellope saves him using her glitch. The volcanic beacon destroys the Cy-Bugs and Turbo.

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Vanellope crosses the finish line, rebooting Sugar Rush and restoring her status and memory as Princess Vanellope, the main character of the game, but keeps her glitching ability. Ralph and Felix return home and their game is spared. Felix and Calhoun marry. Vanellope gains popularity as a playable character, and a content Ralph gains respect from his fellow characters.

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Background: The concept of Wreck-It Ralph was first developed at Disney in the late 1980s, under the working title High Score. In the late 1990s, it took on the working title Joe Jump, then in the mid-2000s as Reboot Ralph.

Rich Moore, the film’s director, had determined that for a film about a video-game world to feel authentic, “it had to have real characters from real games in it.” Moore aimed to add licensed characters in a similar manner as Who Framed Riger Rabbit. Before production, the existing characters were added to the story either in places they would make sense to appear or as cameos from a list of characters suggested by the film’s creative team, without consideration if they would legally be able to use the characters. The company then sought out the copyright holders’ permissions to use the characters, as well as working with these companies to assure their characters were being represented authentically. 1 There are about 188 individual character models in the movie as a result of these cameo inclusions.

Animation: The film introduced Disney’s new bidirectional reflectance distribution functions, with more realistic reflections on surfaces, and new virtual cinematography Camera Capture system, which makes it possible to go through scenes in real-time. To research the Sugar Rush segment of the film, the visual development group traveled to trade fair ISM Cologne, a See’s Candy factory, and other manufacturing facilities. The group also brought in food photographers, to demonstrate techniques to make food appear appealing. Special effects, including from “smoke or dust,” looks distinct in each of the segments.

Music: All music was composed by Henry Jackman

Voice Cast:

John C. Reilly as Wreck-It Ralph. He made his film debut in Casualties of War. He then appeared in Days of Thunder, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, The River Wild, Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Chicago, 2 Gangs of New York, The Aviator, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Step Brothers, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Kong: Skull Island. Sarah Silverman as Vanellope von Schweetz. She appeared in guest roles on several television shows including Star Trek: Voyager, Seinfeld, VIP, Greg the Bunny, and Crank Yankers. She appeared in the films There’s Something About Mary, Say It Isn’t So, School of Rock, The Way of the Gun, Overnight Delivery, Screwed, Heartbreakers, Evolution, School for Scoundrels, and Rent. She won a Creative Arts Emmy Award for writing the song “I’m Fucking Matt Damon.”

Jack McBrayer as Fix-It Felix Jr. He is best known as Kenneth Parcell in 30 Rock. 3 He also appeared in Wander Over Yonder, Phineas and Ferb, Puppy Dog Pals, The Middle, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall Jane Lynch as Sergeant Tamora Jean Calhoun. She is best known for her role as Sue Sylvester in the musical television series Glee. 4 She had a brief role in The Fugitive. She appeared in Best in Show, A Mighty Wind, For Your Consideration, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Role Models, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Alvin & the Chipmunks, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Space Chimps, The Rocker, The Hammer, Another Cinderella Story, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, and Spring Breakdown.

Alan Tudyk as King Candy/Turbo 5 He makes his first appearance in many Disney films. He is known for his role as Hoban “Wash” Washburne in the space western television series Firefly and the accompanying film Serenity. He appeared in Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story, A Knight’s Tale, 3:10 to Yuma, 42, Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials and Rogue One. Director Rich Moore as Sour Bill. He was one of the original three directors of The Simpsons, directing 17 episodes in the first 5 seasons from 1990 to 1993, including some of the show’s most famous episodes: “Flaming Moe’s”, “Itchy and Scratchy: The Movie”, and “Marge vs. the Monorail”. He won a 1991 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program for The Simpsons, and was the sequence director on The Simpsons Movie in 2007. He went on to work on The Critic, Futurama, and Drawn Together.

Joe Lo Truglio as Markowski. He is known for playing Charles Boyle on Brooklyn Nine-Nine . He was a cast member on The State and Reno 911!. His notable film roles include Wet Hot American Summer, I Love You Man, Superbad, Paul, Role Models, and Wanderlust. Dennis Haysbert as General Hologram. He portrayed baseball player Pedro Cerrano in the Major League film trilogy, Secret Service Agent Tim Collin in Absolute Power, and Sergeant Major Jonas Blane on The Unit. He is also known for playing U.S. Senator (later President) David Palmer on 24 and has appeared in the films Love Field, Heat, Far from Heaven and the science fiction series Incorporated.

Adam Carolla as Wynnchel. He co-hosted the syndicated radio call-in program Loveline as well as the show’s television incarnation on MTV. He was the co-host and co-creator of the television program The Man Show and the co-creator and a regular performer on the television show Crank Yankers. Horatio Sanz as Duncan. He is a founding members of the Upright Citizens Brigade. and was a cast member of Saturday Night Live for eight years. He has lent his voice to Gravity Falls and Bojack Horseman among others. Mindy Kaling as Taffyta Muttonfudge and Ed O’Neill as Mr. Stan Litwak (We’ll get to those two in later articles). The cast also includes Edie McClurg as Mary, Rachael Harris, and John DiMaggio

Video Game Characters:

  • Tapper: Root Beer Tapper
  • Q*bert: Q*bert, Coily, Slick, Sam, and Ugg
  • Street Fighter: Chun-Li, Cammy, Blanka, M. Bison, Zangief, Ryu, and Ken Masters
  • Pac-Man: Pac-Man, Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde
  • Paperboy: Paperboy
  • Dig Dug: Dig Dug, a Pooka, and a Fygar
  • Qix: The Qix
  • Frogger: Frogger
  • Burger Time: Peter Pepper
  • Mario Brothers: Bowser
  • Sonic the Hedgehog: Sonic and Doctor Eggman
  • Altered Beast: Neff
  • Dance Dance Revolution: Yuni Verse

Critical Reception: Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 3 out of 4 stars and wrote, “More than in most animated films, the art design and color palette of Wreck-It Ralph permit unlimited sets, costumes, and rules, giving the movie tireless originality and different behavior in every different cyber world.”

Legacy: Ralph and Vanellope appear as meet and greet chatacters in the parks and appear in the parade. A sequel, Ralph Breaks the Internet will be released on November 21st.

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Video Games:

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  • Disney released a tie-in side-scrolling platform game called Wreck-It Ralph for the Wii, Nintendo 3DS, and Nintendo DS.
  • A mobile game titled Wreck-it Ralph was released in November 2012 for iOS and Android systems.
  • Ralph also appears in Sega’s Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed as a playable guest character.
  • Ralph and Vanellope appear as playable characters in Disney Infinity 
  • Wreck-It Ralph is a playable world on the mobile game Disney Crossy Road.
  • Ralph will make his debut appearance in the Kingdom Hearts video game series in the upcoming Kingdom Hearts III, serving as a summon.
  • At Disney Quest at Disney Springs they used to have arcade games of Fix-it Felix Jr. Disney Quest no longer exists.

My take: What I like about this film is that it focuses more on old style video games rather than more modern games. Fix-it Felix Jr. is the type of game that I would have played as a kid.

I can’t be the only one who thinks that a roller coaster based on Sugar Rush would be incredibly fun.

The animation is top notch, rivaling that of Pixar. Everything in the Sugar Rush game looks incredible

Next Week: We enroll at Monsters University